Every year I go through the 100 Questions Exercise by Leonardo Davinci. The process allows you to identify over a hundred curiosities you have – and boil them down to the most important categories and your Top 10 Questions. This year I want to reflect on my questions, answer them, and create a more succinct answer.
The goal is NOT to feel like I have a perfect, completed answer after a year with them. I didn’t think about these more than a handful of times throughout the year. Many lingered in my subconscious. There was only 1 question that I actively thought about 100x more than any other questions: who am I without the internet?
The goal IS to do my best to answer them from where I am NOW, 12 months later. I want to see if I have any new clarity around these questions as we transition into the next year (and the next set of questions – coming soon™).
Weightiest Questions of the Year
The most relevant questions after 12 months:
⭐ 5. Do I need to calm my nervous system to…
⭐ 6. Who am I without the internet?
⭐ 2. What dharma am I avoiding that I could humbly address today?
⭐ 10. Soul, how am I called to show up and embody my purpose as I currently know it?
1. How can I take ownership and initiative in my life today to become more sovereign – instead of “waiting” for life to happen?
Reflection: Sovereignty was a major theme of the year and continues to be moving into the next year. Laura’s beautiful, custom made “sovereignty sigil” painting still hangs on my wall. It acts as a constant reminder of what I am seeking to cultivate in my life.
This year I felt like I had a few good strides of ‘sovereignty,’ lots of time self-reflecting, becoming more aware of who I am, my tendencies, my desires, etc. and yet I also felt like I squandered a lot of time this year by being in the space of “waiting for life to happen.” I was often overwhelmed and lacked the ability to identify what I wanted (versus wallowing in an unhelpful mental state).
Answer: You must create an obscene amount of space for yourself – far more than is comfortable for you.
You wait because you are overburdened with too much. Open space is where discoveries, intuition, awareness, and “the real work” can happen. You have been filling it with unnecessary things; distractions, entertainment, addictions, and sub-par shadow callings.
“Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.”— Jordan Peterson
Please create space by turning off devices, disconnecting from the internet, and intentionally creating [temporary] impenetrable walls from ideas, people, and stimuli.
As you create space and stop consuming as much, your true self can emerge and be heard. It’s easier to make a sandcastle when the sandbox isn’t filled with toys, rocks, and gravel.
2. ⭐ What dharma (dragon, cave, opportunity, or calling) am I avoiding that I could humbly address today?
Reflection: I experienced the avoidance of my dharma almost every day. Most days I was pulled towards creating YouTube videos, writing, or decluttering/purging — and I would constantly put it last, it gets late in the day, and then I had to scrap that intention (lest I ruin sleep – again).
Rinse and repeat, every day.
Resistance won the battle against the embodiment of a dharma more days than not, but my awareness of my dharma (small or large) became clearer with time.
Answer: The dharmas I am avoiding are:
- creating videos (on YouTube)
- regularly writing (in my journal or as articles for online)
- purging my life of lesser-valued belongings (physically, digitally, and obligational)
- More time alone without external input
- developing a career, job or source of income
- learning to facilitate deeper conversations and be more open/vulnerable or expressive
- taking better care of myself through sleep, nutrition, and fitness
Humbly address these by developing small, consistent times to work on these areas each day or week. Focusing on incremental progress is more useful than “grande progress” followed by weeks of zero progress.
Address these as simply, mundanely, primitively as possible – rather than creating elaborate plans. When you’re standing outside the cave of your calling, it’s impossible to know the entirety of all the tunnels and pits-of-death within that cave. Don’t overplan.
You’re better suited by stepping into the cave with appropriate gear (your being, mindset, etc). Every tunnel doesn’t need to be lit. You only need “just enough” light to see where to step next.
You discover your dharma through experience. You explain your dharma (and create a blueprint for others) in retrospect. Your “calling” at this stage may be as simple as curiosity, desire, and discipline. Your calling may simply be what you are interested in right now, like purging out all your clutter and making YouTube videos.
That’s enough to start. Turn on that flashlight and get into the cave. (:
3. What shrouded qualities or desires of my authentic self can I proactively, courageously, and shamelessly embody more of today?
Reflection: I experienced “glimpses” of this throughout the year. The overwhelming and busy nature of my mind made it difficult to acknowledge when desires came up. Or I would outright withhold out of fear.
Some I explored in private, others made it to the light through conversation.
A handful of times I was able to express these outwards in a way that others could connect with, and thus creating something collaborative and useful. Overall I “hid from” or “withheld” my desires and authentic ways of being.
Answer: Shrouded qualities and desires:
- Be more physically intimate (platonically) with specific people.
- Deeper, meaningful, intimate conversations.
- Being more playful and expressive.
- Having more fun, being lighter-hearted.
- Being calmer, more present.
- More artistic, designer-y, creating beauty.
- Speaking up more, sharing audio/video more often.
- Dressing up more.
- Cleaner, spacious environments that are clear, organized, beautifully and inspiringly decorated, functional, calming. The most important and useful things are prominently displayed.
Recognize that opportunities to embody or express these aspects ONLY arrive in the moment. Very few can be planned in advance.
For what you can plan in advance, write them down and then schedule it – or do it now.
For what arrives in the moment, acknowledge when you feel that inner ‘ping’ that is itching to be expressed. ACCEPT that it is uncomfortable; discomfort is not a reason to not do it; it’s an invitation for growth, right then and there. Act as if that moment is your ONLY time to overcome that fear and manifest what you actually want. If you give that responsibility to your future self… you’ll teach your future self to give it to your future self’s future self. (On and on…) That is your moment to break the pattern. Will you do it?
Offer that compliment. Look them in the eyes. Ask the question. Speak out what you want (without expectation). Put on the shoes. Be abnormally encouraging and kind. Redecorate the space. Sign up for that class/course. Offer your perspective.
Acknowledge when you feel your heart flutter with curiosity or desire during conversation, time with others, or when by yourself. Then say it (or do it).
4. What “kind dialogue” can I use to be more encouraging, optimistic, curious, understanding, and loving of myself and others?
Reflection: Most days of the year I had a negative internal environment and would ruminate on the same thing over and over. It’s one of the areas that needs the most attention in my life right now.
There has been some progress this year of increasing the awareness of my thoughts and consciously choosing new, more effective, and kinder thoughts.
Answer: Create space away from stimuli; this will continue to be one of the most valuable things for you for a while. When you are no longer over-stimulated and can be ALONE with your own thoughts, your wild mind can burn its energy and simmer down.
Turning off the external noise is like “ringing out” your brain of all the dirty water. From there, awareness increases and you can then proactively change your dialogue with little effort.
- It’s okay that that happened. Brush yourself off. What do you want to do next?
- There’s an underlying reason we did that – and it probably came from fear. That’s okay. Becoming aware of it is a critically helpful step.
- You’re doing a lot better than you realize!
- Hey. You’re worthy of having a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.
- You have the capacity and strength to ___.
- You’re an incredibly kind, supportive friend.
- Your perspective of [your] world is unique. Follow your unique visions and callings. You and others can value from your insights.
5. ⭐ Do I need to calm my nervous system to reduce trauma responses, masking and to better mono-task and communicate authentically?
Reflection: This year I have been more aware of when I get tense and anxious. In the past I would feel the need to “do more,” distract myself, or otherwise I subconsciously increased my stress and internal negativity.
Now I have been practicing a PAUSE. I get myself up out of my chair and walk around the house or lay on the ground for a few minutes. In some cases, taking a nap will completely reset my entire nervous system and mood.
Although one could argue I am not making further progress on those goals by taking nap, I argue that I wasn’t making any fucking progress anyway by constantly distracting myself. I also had the benefit of feeling calmer, re-energized, and overall had a more positive attitude.
Resets are instrumental.
6. ⭐ Who am I without the internet?
Reflection: I asked this question THE most out of any other question on this list by a hundred fold. Despite that, I do not feel clear on this answer, highlighting the impact that the internet has on my life.
I regularly imagined walking away from the internet and social media… who would I be? What would I be like? What would my interests be? Virtually everything I do involves the internet in some way. This wasn’t always bad and I’m NOT implying that I need to be completely separate from the internet or technology in order to have a fulfilling life.
The emphasis of this question comes from realizing that most of my days are spent on auto-pilot, letting my subconscious and the “guidance” of the internet dictate what I do that day.
This question is to cause a pause. I have realized I am not very in tune with my “nature” without the internet. I feel somewhat hollow, like I don’t know who I really am, or what I like, or what my beliefs are.
And thus – the underlying drive beneath this question is about getting to know myself. Like other questions and answers on this page, the invitation is to step away from the noise and the stimuli. This creates space for me to see my natural tendencies, notice my organic thoughts, and be more intentional with what I’m doing and the mental dialogue I have with myself.
I often “discover” more of who I am by being away from the internet (or other forms of input), or at least being hyper-present with what I am doing online.
Answer: The answer is found in exploration and kinesthetic experience (less-so in excessive consumption, contemplation and reflection). You are still discovering who you are. Be regularly disconnected from the internet, stimuli, or other inputs and be hyper-present with yourself and your current experience in order to discover yourself and have the space to act on what you are genuinely drawn to or want to create in the world.
The internet should be used as a tool — and up till now, you run to the internet and artificially discover what you are interested in. The internet decides for you, rather than you deciding what you want to do and how the internet will help you.
You have been the silver ball inside a pinball machine, bounced around and guided by the pinball machine (internet). Instead of you, the machine is deciding where you go.
Flip the role: become the player of the pinball machine, consciously decide you want to use the machine (internet, technology), and use the pinball machine to guide the silver ball (creations & visions) to the desired outcome.
Once you have intentionally decided what you’re going to do, or built the systems that will support your desired behaviors and creations, then you can go to the internet and digital tools to help you stay on track, create what you want to put into the world, and connect in the ways that are meaningful to you.
Take time away from all the stimuli to uncover who you really are. Who you are will surface when you’re not buried and bombarded by ideas and information not-your-own.
Allow your nervous system to chill out. You will be able to materialize those aspects of yourself & your ideas when you have the space to create, think, and experiment.
The internet then becomes a tool to discover solutions, other tools, connect meaningfully, and discover new inspiration and perspectives WHEN appropriate.
7. ⭐ How can I simplify this?
Reflection: I’ve been living in a state of overwhelm for YEARS. I’m annoyed to still be talking about it, because it feels like I am never making enough progress in it. It’s a “dharma” that I have been avoiding on a regular basis.
I don’t have the consistency of regularly purging these areas in my life (cluttered areas and areas for “idea capturing”), nor the consistency to reject some of what’s coming in. Instinctively I reach for NEW videos to watch instead of watching what I have already saved and identified as “worthy of watching.”
The habit is constantly seeking the new rather than utilizing what is already accessible to me and the tools already at my fingertips.
When I take the time to purge out unnecessary notes & tasks, I feel a sense of relief. I have made progress, lightened the load, freed up my attention and energy for more meaningful things, and consciously narrowed my focus to fewer more important areas of life.
I’’m more regularly asking myself how I can simplify this (often unconsciously through the stress of being overwhelmed followed by a stress-induced purging, cleaning, and tidying spree).
Answer: Focus on creating blank space as often as possible. Are there papers and objects with “pending energy”? Designate an area to “pending energy” and put those notes, tasks, and objects (that do not have a dedicated home) into this area.
Identify what is most important or relevant to you. Let that be a filter to what you should keep or discard. Practice asking if what you are about to open (YouTube videos, podcasts, Facebook feed, etc) aligns with your values or ambitions. If not, consider that it is a distraction and that you could use your time in a more fulfilling way.
Remember: periodic clutter and chaos is okay and expected when working on projects. Every task has a “clutter cost” as a result of doing related work. The goal is to “reset” each time you have completed or paused a task (and anytime you get overwhelmed). It’s an ongoing process: you’ll never completely be “clutter free.” Adopt a “reset procedure” for putting things back into their place and purging clutter that is no longer relevant.
Visualize what it’s like to have only the top 10% most important things in your life (phone, laptop, clothes, etc.) as if you were relocating your life across the world and needed to be selective on what to pack and ship. Imagine if your office, your room, etc. was built this way — today.
More is not always better. Clutter signifies a bunch of weights in your life. Identify what is genuinely filling you up (belongings) and what is weighing you down (clutter). At one point, clutter might have become a belonging. But just like people and phases of our life, things change. Not everything is meaningful now just because it was when it entered your life. Without judgment, gently and simply let go of what’s not relevant today.
To simplify, don’t ask what you need to add or do. Ask what can be removed. Ask what will NOT BE PICKED UP AGAIN.
8. How can I be authentic and vulnerable in this moment to facilitate better connection?
Reflection: My mind is often too busy, anxious, avoidant, or uncomfortable to facilitate authenticity and vulnerability with any intention. (i.e., the brain was so overwhelmed it was rarely a point of consideration to try.)
Answer: Create authenticity and vulnerability by SLOWING DOWN. PAUSE. TAKE A DAMN BREATH.
(hey, you — do you need to take a deep, gentle breath? (: )
Make your eyeballs look directly at what needs your attention:
- The person (and their eyes) in front of you.
- The task you’re avoiding.
- That box that you constantly walk past every single day (“one day…”)
- The stack of papers leaking with “pending energy.”
- The inbox with hundreds or thousands of emails.
You tend to look at everything else BUT what needs looking at. It may be overwhelming at first to actually look at the person or the task or whatever needs your attention.
Whenever you DO look (and pause, breathe, and slow down), it creates incredible space for authentic, calm, courageous, wise Austin to arrive. It’s easier for you to recognize that you have a desire (to say something, offer a suggestion, ask a question, speak of a need, etc.) and then be able to express that (verbally or non-verbally).
The brain’s feeling of being “squeezed by overwhelm” will loosen up. Then you can start to encourage yourself to speak up THROUGH the discomfort and fear, rather than shrinking from it and looking away.
Recognize that a question or desire arising in you IS YOU. You don’t have to check in with anyone about “should I ask/say this?” What’s arising IS you. That is your greenlight.
9. Is this a “full body yes” and going to add to my life — or distract me from my goals?
Reflection: This year a lot of interests have been becoming less interesting to me. I have to be careful with this, because this could be largely due to depression, anxiety, not taking care of myself, etc. Those emotions may simply be untamed and unprocessed. It becomes important to facilitate space in my life, take care of myself, and properly “hear” myself.
This concept is best explained by Derek Sivers in “No yes. Either HELL YEAH! or no.” (Also here at around minute mark 52:20.) Note: Derek emphasizes that this framework is best suited for when you’re overwhelmed, not as an “exclusive rule for all of life.”
Another writer spoke on the physical sensation we experience when we’re fully “locked in” to our desire, mission, curiosity, etc. There’s a physiological state that is different when we’re in a state of “HELL YEAH!” vs. “Yeah,” vs. “No.” They define it as a “full body yes” (or “full body no”).
I often say yes to more than I should without realizing it, not say no enough, and rarely say “HELL YEAH!” The scales are tipped too far into the “meh” stage of Yeah/No. (This applies to the content I take in, the projects I start, who I say yes to for help requests, etc.)
This question is helping me reflect on what a ‘HELL YEAH!’ in my life actually is. If I started saying no to more things and created more space to engage in the ‘HELL YEAH!’ aspects of life… what would I be working on?
It can be helpful to think back on what parts of my life were definite “HELL YEAH!” adventures, projects, changes, etc. Those things were often 10x or 100x more exciting than whatever I was working on at the time. They made other “issues” I was anxious about immediately irrelevant (usually with ZERO consequence) AND they were when the trajectory of my life changed in a positive way.
Answer: A full body yes (“HELL YEAH!”) for me, right now, is:
- Purging as many things from my life as possible, particularly papers, digital notes, and “pending tasks/obligations.”
- Video editing and content creation in general as a vehicle for personal growth.
- Traveling to Interfusion, visiting a friend in Virginia, and possibly one-waying across the east coast visiting vising a few friends — without a clear return date. (i.e., embodying the “void” stage between life chapters.)
- Alone time, full engagement in an activity without distraction. (Anything that gets me hyper-present, with my own authentic thoughts, etc.)
No’s and no’s-parading-as-yes:
- Excessive youtube watching, Facebook checking, and using podcasts/music as a stimulant rather than education.
- Working for free, particularly for projects that require a lot of time on my part (or giving inordinate amounts of time to people at a massive expense to my well-being).
- Cluttered environments.
10. ⭐ Soul, how am I called to show up and embody my purpose as I currently know it?
Reflection: Purpose discovery and embodiment entered the scene in my life as a “main chapter” in early 2021 through a purpose discovery program (focusing on inner work and experiential soul connection processes).
Although I haven’t completed the program yet, the commitment I made during that program continues to “haunt” me. It’s as though that now that I have asked the question and spoken that intention out into life, many aspects of my life and being have reconfigured to orient me (in positive ways) towards that question. It’s top of mind a lot, I get anxious when I am not discovering it or when I am not embodying what I know, and I feel guilty when I’m doing some of the weekly/daily activities.
Answer: Your purpose is discovered primarily through experience, not contemplation. Contemplation, introspection, and reflection are supplemental tools AMIDST your active journey. Right now, the most prominent callings for your purpose are:
- Spend more time alone, in your own space, and in your own private experience. You will gain more clarity and understanding of yourself and your purpose in life from a 30 minute walk than watching 30 videos on YouTube. More awareness of your soul and your purpose while cleaning your room than reading a book about purpose. – Tap into the wisdom within, not the information with-out. That tapping-in comes from kinesthetic experiences and the confrontation with your own soul, thoughts, and experiences – not [exclusively] cerebral contemplations.
- Embrace and be proud of your calm, gentle nature. Become a ‘baffle’ to de-intensify self-judgment, chaos, and anxiousness.
- Supporting others with questions, new perspectives, expertise, and guiding others back to themselves and their [often ambitious, yet not-prioritized] vision.
- Bring forth order and beauty into life, spaces, experiences, and people that need it.
- Tell stories. Share experiences and processes.
- Be in more kinesthetic experiences – be fully engaged in the present moment: go to the store, take a walk, look the person in the eye, rearrange your room, spend hours editing and learning something new.
- Face what you are afraid to be bad at. Those desires you have that you are avoiding, you’re avoiding because you know there’s a chance you will not be good at them. It’s better to try, be bad, and proactively learn and practice to improve… then it is to do nothing and merely think you would be good at it. It’s even better to try, “fail miserably,” realize it’s not your calling, and quit to pursue something else — than to sit on the sidelines thinking “what if.”
- Put your life in order. Start by cleaning your desk, then your room. You will always know what to do next. When spinning and spiraling, just put into order what you can now.
- Capture beauty and interesting things. Use the lens, pen, and voice to share observations, reflections, learnings and heartfelt messages. Create, tell, and share stories. Let yourself and others get a glimpse of the unique, nuanced perspectives that you have.
- Create (or engage in) opportunities for deep connection.
- Be intimate, vulnerable, and authentic. Draw out your soulful side via creation, expression and connection until it is second nature.
Thank you for reading. I hope this inspires you to reflect on the biggest questions on your mind right now.
If you don’t know what they are, then they may be subconsciously guiding your life without you realizing it.
Identify your questions – and ask the ones you really want to be answering.
📷 Photo by David Fennig / Dancing Matters